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Forbidden Fruit Was Indeed The Sweetest, But Only Until It Turned Sour…

“If we were married, then we would be bogged down by the role of husband and wife. Money, kids, chores. But now, as eternal lovers, we can have our fill of unbridled pleasure. No responsibilities, no questions,” he declared.

“To us.”

Yamini saw Ashok raising his third drink of saccharine sweet wine to his lips. But counting from the number of paper cups that laid crushed and dispensed after each use, it could be his fifth. She couldn’t care.

“To us and to love beyond social boundaries,” she slurred back and focused on not spilling the cheap alcohol that strangely smelled of burnt vegetables.

A full bottle between them usually made them raucous, but they were regulars at this seaside resort for a few months now, and a well-greased palm of the night receptionist meant that complaints about them went unentertained. They were in the balcony of the room, sitting on plastic chairs that looked like they had seen many dirty bums during its service. With the sun absconding and the moon running late, the only source of light, a soupy yellow from the bulb, did not help much with vision. It suited their purpose.

“You know, this is better than being married to you.” Ashok smacked his satisfied lips and jerked up from the chair. Looking at her confused eyes, he added. “If we were married , then we would be bogged down by the role of husband and wife. Money, kids, chores. But now, as eternal lovers, we can have our fill of unbridled pleasure. No responsibilities, no questions,” he declared with his outstretched arms, one of which held a cigarette that was turning itself into ash for him. A deep puff later, he stubbed the embers into a flowerpot that held a scrawny-looking hibiscus plant, which desperately tried to make an ordinary room into a suite.

Yamini smirked and took a gaudy red chicken 65 to her mouth, and noticed that it left an ugly stain wherever it grazed. In the Styrofoam plate, in her fingers, and probably in her mouth. Her stomach protested in vain, though she ignored it. It was the day of her indulgence, one day of every month, when she did everything forbidden. She ate, drank and slept with everything illicit. But all was fair in love and war. And this was both her love and her war. A punishing war waged against her parents for not allowing her to marry Ashok, the only love of her life. Back then, she had not been brazen enough to cross the invisible boundary. Over a period of time, her longing frothed up into rage and curdled into disdain for her parents, the society, and generally, at the world. Ashok, a practical man, married a girl of his parent’s choice, after a reasonable period of sulking. But Yamini was too ensnared in the past to move on.

A chance meeting at a mall, her yearning and Ashok’s eagerness was all that was needed to rekindle old romance. For one day, every month, he would be hers, he said. To her, the forbidden fruit was indeed the sweetest. Her middle finger to the society that tried to tame her. When in throes of passion, Ashok would say he would do anything for Yamini’s love, even cheat.

Ashok’s phone lit to life and whirred for attention. Wifey, the screen said. Ashok ignored the call, got up, cinched his lungi tighter around his waist and shuffled into the room, as if he just remembered what had to be done.

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It was his signal to her to take the act indoors and into the bed.  She tried to get up and steady herself. The distant sea churned and roiled, just like her stomach. And before she knew it, half digested food forced its way to her mouth and splodged on the teapoy, which contained, among other evidence of the evening’s depravity, Ashok’s mobile. On cue, it whirred again. Wifey was calling. Despite the pain, she knelt down by the teapoy and tried to take the mobile away from the trail of vomit she had ejected. She heard hurried footsteps approaching her from behind, stumbling over the flowerpots that lined the sliding doors, falling yet getting up to come to her aid.

“Don’t worry. I am fine.” Yamini tried to be reassuring, chastening herself for worrying Ashok unnecessarily.

A flash of dark arm zipped past her shoulder and snatched the mobile before she could reach it.

“Sorry. I got to take this. Could be an emergency,” Ashok said, only now noticing the state Yamini was in.

He went into the room and closed the sliding door, shutting out Yamini.  Shocked as she was, Yamini tried to pull herself up leveraging against the chair. But the chair slipped under her weight, flew away and fell bottoms up, in an exaggerated show of self-sacrifice. That undependable plastic chair, she cursed. Now, she was on the floor, doubled up in shame or pain, she did not know, sometimes they felt the same,  and surveyed at the mess in front of her.

Paper cups, cigarette butts, vomit. There were even a couple of broken flower pots, the mud spilling out, oddly angled flowers with broken stems. And then because it was all so depressing, the overturned plastic chairs and food half-eaten on Styrofoam plates, she knew in that moment that she would have to make up her mind about it all. Did she really want to be here?

She wondered at whom her wrath was aimed at? Her parents? The world? Or at her naïve younger self that neither fought for her love nor let go? She made up her mind to forgive herself, first. The world and her parents would have to wait for their turn. She knew it might take months, even years, to heal. But she was not willing to be anyone’s unbridled pleasure anymore, burning herself into ash for another’s pleasure. She got up slowly, side stepped the paper cups, cigarette butts, scattered mud, vomit, and Ashok who slid open the door, all the mess in general, and kept walking towards the room’s door.

This story had been shortlisted for our October 2021 Muse of the Month short fiction contest. The juror, Himanjali Sankar has commented: “Well-paced, with detailing that is real, gritty and well-done, this story throws up many questions that it answers evocatively and perfectly through the action of the heroine at the end of the story instead of going into theatrics or unnecessary action or dialogue.”

Image source: a still from the film Manmarziyaan

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About the Author

Sarves

A brief introduction to the writer Sarveswari Saikrishna is a short story writer, currently working towards her MFA Creative Writing degree from Writer’s Village University. Two of her works have appeared in the Literary read more...

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